7 August 2010 | gradyharp
After.Life - there is a clue in the title
AFTER.LIFE (yes, that is a dot between the two words suggesting this may be a video game...or blog, or something created in cyberspace) takes a long shot; can a one-line story keep an audience's attention for over 103 minutes? Not having noticed whether this played in theaters or is one of the direct to DVD films, that question is tough to answer. The director and writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (writing in tandem with Paul Vosloo and Jakub Korolczuk) asks us to suspend belief and muse about the idea that there is a time between 'death' and the actual burial (or other means of final interment/disposal) when the spirit may struggle with the idea of life ending. It is an interesting hiatus to study and fortunately a cast was selected to portray the characters involved in this internet-like game that makes it watchable.
Schoolteacher Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) and Paul Coleman (Justin Long) are in a rocky relationship: they could be headed toward marriage but Anna has trust issues that prevent her from committing to same. In a rage she leaves the frustrated Coleman, subsequently is killed in a car accident, and is taken to a mortuary where mortician Elliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) begins preparing her body for the funeral. Anna is unable to move anything but her mouth and denies that she is dead, a situation Deacon encounters with most every dead body he prepares for burial. And this is where the conundrum begins: is Anna dead or is she alive, kept prisoner by Deacon? Anna's hateful mother (Celia Watson) visits her daughter's corpse and has few kind words to say. Paul is devastated, comforted by his colleague Tom (Josh Charles), that Anna is dead and visits the mortuary to see the body but is refused admittance by Deacon. One of Anna's young students Jack (Chandler Canterbury) seems to have a special affinity for the dead and spies on the mortuary where he sees Anna standing in a window. Anna and Deacon have long talks about the after.life - that time when the soul is preparing to leave the corporal body - and Deacon continues to prepare Anna for her funeral. As she is buried the facts of the story straighten out a bit, but to reveal those facts would ruin what little suspense there is in this film.
Though the moody atmosphere is well captured by both the director of photography Anastas N. Michos and the musical score by Paul Haslinger, and the presence of Liam Neeson who plays his role very straight and Christina Ricci who plays her role almost entirely in the nude, give the story the requisite creepy effect. Yes, it is corny in many ways, but at least it is a bit different from the formula movies that keep churning out of Hollywood.